Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
January 15, 2004
Students help make over land owned by Margaret Atwood
A 36-acre plot of land on Pelee Island owned by Margaret Atwood is soon to get a makeover based on the designs of third-year University of Guelph landscape architecture students.
The celebrated author is in the process of donating the land to the Pelee Island Heritage Centre in order to create a model farm of ecological sustainability in Canada’s most southerly community. When Landscape architecture professor Karen Landman heard about the project, she offered the assistance of her class. “It allowed the students to work out a site planning scale, but also to really dig into what is ecological restoration, how do we do it and what do we need to know to do it,” she said.
The students’ designs will be exhibited at the Guelph Organic Conference Jan. 23 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in Peter Clark Hall, University Centre lower level.
Landman brought experts into her class from several different areas of ecological restoration, alternative agriculture and ecotourism to help the students. Elements in the designs include wind turbines, wildlife corridors, green roof gardens, water purification systems and cold storage cellars. The students presented their ideas to Ron Tiessen, the Pelee Island Heritage Centre curator who’s in charge of the project.
Tiessen said the design plans are a crucial part of the vision for the entire island because once the demonstration farm is in place, it will become the model for similar farms in the community. “This land is intended to be like an incubator that will keep the rest of the Island alive. We want to demonstrate ecological sustainability and sustainable farming practices that would leave farmers with a viable income, as well as give the island greater self-reliance in producing its own food, and in so doing, create employment opportunities in our small community.”
Pelee Island, which has 275 permanent residents and 1,000 cottagers, formed a planning advisory committee to determine the community’s five- to 10-year vision plan. Tiessen and others at the heritage centre will decide which elements of the students’ designs to utilize. He expects the implementation of the students’ concepts to begin within the next year.
U of G student Kristen Hambleton said the project was a great learning experience because there were so many factors to consider. “I think one of the biggest challenges to keep in mind with landscape architecture is that even though it’s just plants, you have a huge impact on changing ecosystems and habitats in what you place where,” she said. “Especially somewhere like Pelee Island, where one wrong plant species can spread throughout the entire island.”
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